Do you often get distracted by your own thoughts? That’s not a bad thing, because daydreaming is a sign of creativity and intelligence, according to a new report.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology recently conducted an experiment, published in the Neuropsychologia journal, to determine how areas of the brain function when the mind wanders.
To do so, they measured the brain patterns of more than 100 people while they laid in an MRI machine. Participants were then asked to focus on one point for five minutes so that analysts could identify which parts of the brain worked in unison.
Afterwards, the subjects also filled out a questionnaire about how often their mind drifted daily.
After analyzing all of the data, they found that those who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability. The MRI machine also measured more efficient brain systems among those who daydream.
“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can’t,” lead author Eric Schumacher said in a statement. “Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.”
The scientists believe high-efficient brains have more capacity to think. Therefore, it may be easier to daydream while performing simple tasks.
“Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor — someone who’s brilliant, but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings,” said Schumacher. “Or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes. While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.”
The researchers hope their findings will lead to studies that decipher when mind wandering is harmful and when it is helpful.